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Feyenoord first up as Celtic seek to avenge 1970 upset

Dutch champions Feyenoord are unbeaten in five league games this term
Venue: De Kuip, Rotterdam Date: Tuesday 19 September Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland Extra/DAB/810MW, live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app

When the late Wim Jansen accepted the invitation to manage Celtic, one of the reasons he was seduced by the job was what he saw as similarities between Glasgow’s then sleeping giant and Feyenoord, the club with which he had memorably helped destroy Jock Stein’s dream of a second European Cup triumph 27 years earlier.

Just three seasons after Lisbon, Celtic were favourites to lift the famous trophy again, this time in Milan’s iconic San Siro. And, when one of the 1967 scorers Tommy Gemmell repeated the trick with a terrific opener, hopes were raised, hopes that would be shattered by Ernst Happel’s underdogs.

Feyenoord came back and deservedly won 2-1. Key men such as Jimmy Johnstone and Bobby Lennox were marked out of the game. The great Billy McNeill’s rare misjudging of a quick free-kick allowed the Dutch in for the decisive goal with just minutes left of extra time.

The diminutive Rotterdam native at the heart of it all was Jansen.

Despite standing at 5ft 5in when he dictated games from his midfield posting, in the annals of Feyenoord, Jansen is a bona fide colossus. Only one man played more games for the club. He won four Eredivisie titles and would add the Uefa Cup to his crowning moment in Milan among other accolades.

As the clubs prepare to do battle for just the second time in their Champions League group, Jansen, who died in January 2022, will be at the forefront of many supporters’ thoughts on both sides.

His impact on Celtic when he replaced Tommy Burns was much shorter but no less important as he secured the Scottish title in 1998. It was the Parkhead club’s first in a decade and, perhaps just as crucially, denied rivals Rangers an historic 10th successive championship.

To help achieve this, he convinced the Celtic board to shell out £650,000 for the services of Feyenoord striker Henrik Larsson. The rest is history.

With last season’s Italian runners-up, Lazio, and three-time Champions League runners-up Atletico Madrid also in Group E, many feel the head-to-heads against the Dutch champions are where Celtic’s best chance of wins will come from.

Key absences in goal and up front

Feyenoord manager Arne Slot
Arne Slot turned down an approach from Tottenham Hotspur after steering Feyenoord to the first title since 2017

The hosts were dealt a blow last month with a second wrist fracture of the calendar year to first choice goalkeeper Justin Bijlow. The reported Manchester United target is likely to be out until the start of November.

Highly rated right-back Lutsharel Geertuida is a fitness doubt. Losing the 23-year-old would be a blow to Feyenoord head coach Arne Slot, who was in the frame for the Tottenham Hotspur job before turning down the opportunity, much to Celtic’s chagrin. The Scottish champions would lose Ange Postecoglu to the London club in the wake of that decision.

Slot also has his problems at the top end of the pitch, with Santiago Gimenez suspended for their first two group matches. The Mexican goal machine has scored five in five games this season and hit 28 last term as they won their first title since Giovanni van Bronckhorst led them to the summit of the Eredivisie in 2017.

Gimenez was sent off in their second leg thrashing by Roma in last season’s Europa League quarter-final as the Italians once again denied them, having beaten them in the Conference League final just months before.

New signing Ayase Ueda will also likely miss out against Celtic after picking up a knock in the wake of scoring in Japan’s impressive 4-1 friendly win over Germany.

Attacking midfielder Calvin Stengs may be the one who Slot will turn to lead the line on Tuesday, while other threats include wingers Luka Ivanusec and Igor Paixao. Slovakia defender David Hancko is an imposing figure at the back alongside captain Gernot Trauner.

Celtic have never won their opening Champions League group match and this will be their last chance to do so with Uefa refurbishing the competition from next season.

Feyenoord are making their return to the groups of this tournament for the first time in six years and will call upon the spirit of 1970 when they take to the field against Brendan Rodgers’ side.